M23 rebels have launched again in the North Kivu region by capturing the strategic town of Shasha. The capture came after the intense fighting with government forces and a coalition of militia groups known as Wazalendo.
Shasha is located in the Masisi territory, about thirty kilometers southwest of the city of Goma, capital of North Kivu. Located on National Road 2, the town links the capitals of the provinces of North and South Kivu.
The capture of Shasha helps M23 rebels block a key route used by government forces to defend Goma. Locals said after taking control of Shasha on Sunday, M23 went further to capture Kihindo, Kituva, Bukobati and Nyamubingwa settlements.
Startled by the fighting, civilians fled en masse to the town of Minova, located further south on the same road. By Monday morning, M23 rebels were already controlling Goma-Minova road.
The government forces and United Nations troops have deployed heavily to counter the advancing rebels, and the locals have fled the town.
The development emphasizes the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC where M23 rebels appear determined to cut off all access routes to Goma.
Government affiliated militia groups such as Wazalendo yesterday said they had deployed more fighters to resist the rebels whom Kinshasa says are backed by Rwanda.
The Congolese government last year warned M23 rebels that any attack on Goma would compel government forces to strike Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
The development also comes days after M23 injured two South African peacekeepers in an attack on a United Nations Mission helicopter in eastern DRC.
The chopper was carrying out a medical evacuation when it came under fire from presumed members of the M23 armed group in the Karuba region, located in Masisi territory, North Kivu province.
The helicopter was able to land safely in the provincial capital, Goma, and the peacekeepers received medical treatment.